ePub 版

While Congress was sitting in the lower hall, that in the second story was occupied by the provincial convention of Pennsylvania. The upper story is at present used by the District Court of the United States; the lower room on the right of the entrance for one of the city courts. The wings, containing the county offices, are of modern origin.

Notwithstanding the jealousy that had always existed in the colonies against the slightest infringement upon their constitutional liberties, yet the question of an absolute separation from Great Britain had been scarcely entertained by any even of the whigs up to the very commencement of the year 1776. A few profound political philosophers, indeed, and more in England than here, had perhaps foreseen such an event : but Jay, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, and many others, concur in the opinion that no separation was intended, or thought of, at the commencement of the war. Mr. Pratt, afterwards Lord Camden, said to Dr. Franklin in England, " For all what you Americans say of your loyalty, I know you

will one day throw off your dependence upon this country: and notwithstanding your boasted affection for it, will set up for independ. ence.” Franklin replied, “No such idea is entertained in the mind of Americans; and no such idea will ever enter their heads unless you grossly abuse them.” It is necessary to consider the general prevalence of this opinion to estimate the boldness of the step taken by the patriots of the Declaration.

In July, 1775, a petition and address to the king had been drawn up by Mr. Jefferson, and presented to Congress, but he says "it was too strong for Mr. Dickinson"-(the author of the * Farmer's Letters," and delegate from Pennsylvania.) Congress allowed Mr. Dickinson so far to modify Jefferson's draught, that only four and a half of its original paragraphs remained, and 80 passed it, although Jefferson says, "the disgust against its humility was general.” Mr. Dickinson, quite elated at the success of his measure, said—“There is but one word, Mr. President, in the paper which I disapprove, and that is the word Congress.” On which Benj. Harrison (father of the late President) rose and said, “There is but one word in the paper, Mr. President, of which I approve, and that is the word Congress." This petition was taken to England by Richard Penn, formerly governor of the province, who in Nov. 1775, was examined before the House of Lords, and stated in reply to their inquiries whether the war was intended to establish an independent empire, " I think they do not carry on this war for independency. I never heard them breathe sentiments of that nature." “ For what purpose, then ?" he was asked.

“In de fence of their liberties," was his reply.

The following passages are extracted from a memoir recently published in the Magnolia, a southern magazine, by Wm. Bacon Stevens, Esq., of Georgia:

The remarks above made as to the drawing up of the petition to the king by Dickinson, and "the general disgust felt first” by the members, reconcile the apparent insincerity of Mr. Adams in writing letters full of independence to his wife and James Warren, only a fortnight after the signing the above last act of fealty to his sovereign ; and which, being intercepted, were laid before the king alongside of the petition, each giving the lie to the contents of the other, and puz. zling both the king and the ministers by their contrariety. Indeed, after the battles of Concord and Lexington, which happened nearly two months before the passage of Mr. Dickinson's peti. tion, the feeling of independency rapidly gained ground, and soon became openly declared.

On the 15th May, 1776, a resolution was proposed to and adopted by Congress, declaring, that “ whereas the government of Great Britain had excluded the United Colonies from the crown, it was therefore irreconcilable to reason and good conscience for the people to continue their allegiance to the crown; and they accordingly recommended the several colonies to establish independent governments of their own." The same day Col. Archibald Cary introduced a resolution into the Virginia Convention, which was assembled at Williamsburgh, on the 6th of May, instructing their delegates in Congress to propose to them to declare the colonies independent of Great Britain. This coincidence, it has been said, was brought about by the contrivance of Jef. ferson, who designed it for popular effect. Accordingly, on Friday the 7th June, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, the oldest of the delegation, in accordance with the instructions of the Virginia Convention, moved “that the Congress should declare that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, frce and independent states ; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all the political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved ; that measures should be immediately taken to procure the assistance of foreign powers, and a confederation be formed to bind the colonies more closely together.”

This motion was seconded by John Adams, of Massachusetts, and the next day, Saturday the 8th, at 10 o'clock, A. M., was appointed for considering it. On that day the House resolved it. self into a committee of the whole, and spent the remainder of that day and Monday the 10th,

in deliberating upon the question. The principal advocates of the proposition were John Adams, Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee, George Wythe, and Thomas Jefferson ; and the principal opponents of the measure were, Messrs. Dickinson and Wilson, of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston, of New York, and Edward Rutledge, of South Carolina.

[The debate was, as may well be conceived, of intense interest; but the abstract of it, as given by Jefferson, is too long for insertion here. The principal arguments of the opponents were not urged against independence itself, but against the policy of declaring it then; they urged especially that “the people of the middle colonies (Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, the Jerseys, and New York) were not yet ripe for bidding adieu to British connection, but that they were fast ripening, and in a short time would join in the general voice." But more cogent arguments were urged by the advocates for immediate declaration; and they were the majority, and had resolved that, living or dying, they would be independent.]

On the 10th June, Mr. Lee, having been informed of the dangerous illness of his wife, obtain. ed leave of absence from Congress, and returned home. The members, after some debate on the order of the day, postponed the further consideration of the subject to the 1st July, in order that the incipient feelings of independence of the colonies of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and South Carolina, might be fully matured and understood. A committee was, however, appointed to draw up in the interim a Declaration of Independence, and report the same to the House. That committee consisted of John Adams, of Mass., Benj. Franklin, of Penn., Roger Sherman, of Conn., Robert R. Livingston, of New York, and Thomas Jefferson, of Virginia. The preparation of this important paper was confided to Mr. Jefferson. Having written what he thought a proper Declaration, he submitted it to the committee, who suggested several minor alterations. Jefferson then made two fair copies of the Declaration as revised by the committee ; one for Richard Henry Lee, who did not return to Congress till August, and the other to be presented as the report of the committee. This last was presented to the House on Friday, the 28th June, by Benjamin Harrison, (father of the late President,) and, after being read, was ordered to lie on the table. For the subsequent proceedings we again recur to the authentic notes of Jefferson :

On Monday, the 1st July, the House resolved itself into a committee of the whole, and resumed the consideration of the original motion made by the delegates of Virginia, which, being again debated through the day, was carried in the affirmative by the votes of New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia South Carolina and Pennsylvania voted against it. Delaware had but two members present, and they were divided. The delegates from New York declared they were for it themselves, and were assured their constituents were for it; but that their instructions having been drawn a twelvemonth before, when reconciliation was still the general object, they were enjoined by them to do nothing which should impede that object. They, therefore, thought themselves not justifiable in voting on either side, and asked leave to withdraw from the question, which was given them. The committee rose, and reported their resolution to the House. Mr. Rutledge, of South Carolina, then requested the determination might be put off to the next day, as he believed his colleagues, though they disapproved of the resolution, would then join it for the sake of unae nimity. The ultimate question, whether the House would agree to the resolution of the commit. iee, was accordingly postponed to the next day, when it was again moyed, and South Carolina concurred in voting for it. In the mean time a third member had come post from the Delaware counties, and turned the vote of that colony in favor of the resolution. Members of a different sentiment attending that morning from Pennsylvania also, her vote was changed ; so that the whole twelve colonies, who were authorized to vote at all, gave their votes for it: and within a few days (July 9th) the convention of New York' approved it, and thus supplied the void occasioned by the withdrawing of their delegates from the vote.” [Be careful to observe that this vacillation and vote were on the original motion of the 7th of June, by the Virginia delegates, that Congress should declare the colonies independent.) 'Congress proceeded, the same day, to consider the Declaration of Independence, which had been reported and laid on the table the Friday preceding, and on Monday referred to a committee of the whole. The pusillanimous idea that we had friends in England worth keeping terms with, still haunted the minds of many. For this reason, those passages which conveyed censures on the people of England were struck out, lest they should give them offence. The debates having taken up the greater parts of the second, third, and fourth days of July, were, in the evening of the last, closed; the Declaration was reported by the committee, agreed to by the House, and signed by every member present except Mr. Dickinson."

The fact that the names of several persons are affixed to that instrument, who were not in Congress when it passed, and took no part in the deliberations which produced it, is thus explained by Jefferson :

“The subsequent signatures of members who were not then present, and some of them not yet in office, is easily explained, if we observe who they were; to wit, that they were of New York and Pennsylvania. New York did not sign until the 15th, because it was not until the 9th (five days after the general signature) that their convention authorized them to do so. The conven

[ocr errors]

Rear of the State-house. tion of Pennsylvania, learning that it had been signed by a majority only of their delegates, named a new delegation on the 20th, leaving out Mr. Dickinson, who had refused to sign, Willing and Humphreys, who had withdrawn, reappointed the three members who had signed, Mor. ris, who had not been present, and five new ones, to wit, Rush, Clymer, Smith, Taylor, and Ross; and Morris, and the five new members were permitted to sign, because it manifested the assent of their full delegation, and the express will of their convention, which might have been doubted on the former signature of the majority. Why the signature of Thornton, of New Hampshire, was permitted so late as the 4th November, I cannot now say; but undoubtedly for some particular reason which we would find to have been good, had it been expressed. These were the only post signers ; and you see, sir, that there were solid reasons for receiving those of New York and Pennsylvania, and that this circumstance in nowise affects the faith of this declaratory charter of our rights and the rights of man."

The Declaration of Independence was received by all the colonies with satisfaction and joy. On the 8th of July it was publicly proclaimed in Philadelphia, amidst salvoes of artillery and salutes of the multitudes.

“On the 8th July, Jefferson wrote to Mr. Lee as follows: I enclose you a copy of the Declaration of Independence, as agreed to by the House, and also as originally framed. This was the second copy which he had made for Mr. Lee. Mr. Jefferson added, "You will judge whether it is better or worse for critics' On this suggestion of Mr. Jefferson, the comparison was made by Richard Henry Lee, and his brother, Arthur Lee, who drew a black line upon the original draught proposed by the committee under every part rejected by Congress, and in the margin opposite placed the word out. This document, thus marked, is possessed by the American Philosophical Society. The form of declaration finally adopted and signed by the members of Congress, exists at Washington in the Department of State, but the originally proposed form has not been found, from which circumstance the document in possession of the society has become the sole original draught.”

We close this long, but hope not uninteresting narrative, by quoting part of a letter from John Adams, whom Jefferson termed “the main pillar of the support of the Declaration of Independence on the floor of Congress,” to his wife, dated July 5, 1776 :

* The 4th of July, 1776,” says he will be a memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary sesti

. val. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with pomps, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward for. ever. You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these states; yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory. I can see that "the end is worth more than all the means ; and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.”

It was ascertained by Dr. Maese, in a correspondence with Mr. Jefferson, that the Declaration

of Independence was written by him at his private lodgings “in the house of a Mr. Graaf, a new brick house, three stories high, of which"-says Mr. J.--"I rented the second floor, consisting of a parlor and bedroom ready furnished. In that parlor I wrote habitually, and in it wrote this paper particularly.” The house is on the southwest corner of Market and Seventh strcets.

The annexed view, copied from an old engraving, exhibits the rear of the State-house as it appeared at the time of the revolution, with an enormous quaint clockcase at either end. For the beautiful elms that adorn this square we are indebted to the taste of Mr. Vaughan, father of the late John Vaughan, Esq., who caused them to be planted about the year 1682. It was here that, on the 8th July, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was first read by John Nixon, amid the repeated shouts of the people. The King's Arms in the court-room were taken down, and burnt in public; and bonfires, discharges of cannon, and ringing of bells, demonstrated the joy of the people.

In connection with the Hall of Independence should not be forgotten the former office of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the United States, -a narrow three-story brick building on the east side of Sixth-street, a few doors above Chestnut-street. It now belongs to Mr. Du Ponçeau, who came out to this country as a captain under Baron Steuben, and afterwards was employed as an under secretary in this same office. Here the great state papers of the revolution, that astonished the world, were drawn up, considered, and deposited. Here Robert R. Livingston officiated as Secretary, and all the great men of the revolution came in and out familiarly; and here, too, Mr. Du Ponçeau has often taken his breakfast of whortleberries and milk in company with Hon. Samuel Huntington, the president of congress ;-frugal repast of revolutionary patriots !

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Old London Coffee-house. The building for many years known as the London Coffee-house, and still standing at the S. W. corner of Front and Market streets, was erected in 1701, by Charles Reed, and was first used as a coffee-house by Wil. liam Bradford, formerly printer, in 1754. The aspect of the lower story

is somewhat altered for modern use. Our artist has represented the ancient pent-eaves with which it was evidently originally fitted ; though he has committed an anachronism, by representing the ancients of the cocked hat lounging on the benches, at the same moment that the merchants of modern times are busy in the adjoining tall granite-front commission stores of 1840 : this serves, however, more distinctly to mark the contrast. The pent-eaves were afterwards exchanged for a “ large frame shed which covered the walk; and here all the out-door public sales were held--and the horse-market twice a week ;" and here, too, says Mr. Watson, “ Philadelphians once sold negro men, women, and children, as slaves !” Here the politicians, wits, military officers, and merchants of the old French war, and of the revolution, used to meet and talk over the news. “We had,” says an old writer, “ in those days (of the revolution) a newspaper, published by Charles Town once a week, called the Evening Post,—which Jemmy McCoy, an Irishman with one leg, used to sell through the streets-blowing a trumpet, and crying out, “ Here's your bloody news ! here's your fine bloody news!"

The winter of 1777-78, immediately following the battle of Brandywine, was memorable for the occupation of Philadelphia by the British army, under General Sir William Howe, accompanied by his brother, Lord Howe, who had command of the British fleet in the Delaware. The following extracts relating to the scenes of that winter, are from various Sources:

“ The grenadiers, with Lord Cornwallis at their head, led the van when they entered the city. I went up to the front rank of the grenadiers when they had entered Second-street, when several of them addressed me thus,—"How do you do, young one ?” “How are you, my boy ?”-in a brotherly tone that seems still to vibrate on my ear; then reached out their hands and severally caught mine, and shook it-not with an exulting shake of conquerors, as I thought, but with a sympathizing one for the vanquished. The Hessians composed a part of the van-guard, and followed in the rear of the grenadiers. Their looks, to me, were terrific : their brass caps—their mustachios—their countenances, by nature morose—and their music, (that sounded better English than they themselves could speak—plunder, plunder, plunder,)-gave a desponding, heartbreaking effect, as I thought, to all ; to me it was dreadful beyond expression."-Watson's Corres.

Recollections of the entry of the army, by a lady.-We knew the enemy had landed at the head of Elk; but of their procedure and movements we had but vague information—for none were left in the city in public employ, to whom expresses would be addressed. The day of the battle of Brandywine was one of deep anxiety. We heard the firing, and knew of an engagement between the armies, without expecting immediate information of the result, when towards night a horseman rode at full speed down Chestnut-street, and turned round Fourth to the Indian Queen public house. Many ran to hear what he had to tell; and, as I remember, his account was pretty near the truth. He told of La Fayette being wounded.

The army marched in and took possession of the town in the morning. We were up stairs, and saw them pass to the State-house. They looked well, clean, and well-clad; and the contrast between them and our own poor barefooted and ragged troops, was very great, and caused a feeling of despair. It was a solemn and impressive day; but I saw no exultation in the ene. my, nor, indeed, in those who were reckoned favorable to their success. Early in the afternoon Lord Cornwallis's suite arrived, and took possession of my mother's house. But my mother was appalled by the numerous train, and shrank from such inmates ; for a guard was mounted at the door, and the yard filled with soldiers and baggage of every description ; and I well remember what we thought of the haughty looks of Lord Rawdon, (afterwards the Marquis of Hastings.) and the other aid-de-camp, as they traversed the apartments. My mother desired to speak with Lord Cornwallis, and he attended her in the front parlor. She told him of her situation, and how impossible it would be for her to stay in her own house with such a numerous train as composed his lordship's establishment. He behaved with great politeness to her-said he should be sorry to give trouble, and would have other quarters looked out for him. They withdrew that very afternoon, and he was accommodated at Peter Reeve's, in Second, near to Spruce street ; and we felt very glad at the exemption. But it did not last long; for, directly, the quarter-masters weru employed in billeting the troops, and we had to find room for two officers of artillery, and after wards, in addition, for two gentlemen, sccretaries of Lord Howe.

« 上一頁繼續 »